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Paris Agreement: Impacting Economic Consequences and Legacy of Future Generation

Sep 28, 2016
  • Marianne Ojo

    Visiting Professor and Post-doctoral Researcher, George Mason University

- Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,

- Affirming the importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels on the matters addressed in this Agreement,

- Recognizing the importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors, in accordance with respective national legislations of Parties, in addressing climate change……………….

Paris Agreement, United Nations Publications 2015, page 2

The 2015 Paris Climate Summit Agreement witnessed a huge and significant step forward in its legal enforcement, on the 3rd September 2016, following its ratification by two leading parties to the Agreement (herein referred to as the Parties) – namely China and the United States of America. The ratification of the global agreement aimed at addressing climate change, took place at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, following announcements by President Obama and China's President Xi Jinping to ratify the Agreement – in a move which is widely regarded as symbolic – not only from the perspective of such ratification having been undertaken by the world’s two leading economies, but also owing to the fact that China and the United States contribute to 40% of the global carbon dioxide emissions – with China accounting for 25% and the United States accounting for 15%. [1]

The move is also significant from the perspective that, pursuant to Article 21 of the Paris Agreement:

- 1. The Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Hence the deal only comes into force legally following its formal ratification by at least 55 countries – which account for 55% of the world’s global greenhouse emissions.

Prior to China and the USA’s ratification, and according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, 23 nations, had ratified the Agreement and their ratification had constituted just about 1.08% of the global emissions.

The Agreement, pursuant to Article 2, as embodied within – particularly with reference to Article 2 (a), (b) and (c) of Agreement, clearly highlights its objectives and goals aimed at the eradication of poverty, as well as a recognition of the need to adapt to adverse consequences and impacts of climate change:

- ……… enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:

- (a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
- (b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and
- (c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

Even though the announcements to ratify the 2015 Paris Agreement pave way for historical developments in the global fight to reduce carbon emissions, many critics have described the move as long overdue. However, in view of current global levels of greenhouse gases, the evident impacts of global warming on the environment – as well as current migration crises in Europe – which according to some, is partly attributed to the detrimental effects of global climate change, economic and other far-reaching consequences of ignoring the need to address present global climate and conditions, should weigh more heavily than criticisms related to current efforts aimed at addressing the problem. Rather than criticize those Parties which have recently ratified the Agreement, such countries should be lauded – whilst encouraging other Parties (who are yet to ratify the Agreement) to do the same.

Further notable points of the Paris Climate Agreement are as follows: [2]
· The need to review its progress every five years
· The need to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century.
· Provision of 100 billion a year for developing countries by 2020, with further commitment to finance in the future.
· Once the deal comes into force, countries that have agreed to ratify have to wait for a minimum of three years before they exit.

Of particular relevance is also Article 13(7) which makes reference to the need for constant updates on information which is vital and crucial to determining what is necessary to evaluate a Party’s “nationally determined contribution” – as provided for, under Article 4 of the Paris Agreement. Whilst leading economies which contribute a larger proportion of global carbon emissions are urged to instigate greater initiatives in the fight to mitigate greenhouse gases and environmental pollution, other countries, have also been criticized for failing to demonstrate proportional initiatives in the fight against global carbon emissions and environmental pollution.

Article 13 (7) of the Agreement states that:

7. Each Party shall regularly provide the following information:

(a) A national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, prepared using good practice methodologies accepted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement; and

(b) Information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving its nationally determined contribution under Article 4.

Whilst certain Parties may be considered to have been unfairly criticized in their approach to the fight against global environmental pollution, a formidable and more convincing evidence of commitment to the Paris Agreement would be the ratification of the Agreement by such Parties. Indeed, the success of its implementation is to a larger extent, determined by cooperation, coordination and commitment of the Parties to the Agreement.

As evidenced by Article 21 of the Agreement, the impact and legal effect of the Agreement, is governed – as well as influenced by the extent of the participation and involvement of the Parties to the Agreement. It is hoped that the move by the United States and China, will signal and serve as the necessary impetus required for all other major (and minor) signatories and Parties to ratify the Agreement in order to facilitate – as well as accelerate its legal effects.

Now that the Agreement has generated about 41% of the required 55% mandate, which is necessary to give legal effect to its provisions, and 25 nations have ratified the Agreement, ratification by at least 30 other Parties – including the likes of the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Mexico, would generate even greater stimulus to give legal effect to the Agreement. Tremendous progress has been achieved since 2015 - with 2016 ratifications by Parties such as the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cameroon, Cook Islands, North Korea, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Norway and Peru comprising some of the previous 23 Parties who had ratified the Agreement.

It is surely inspiring that the United States and China have added their ratifications.

As acknowledged by these two major Parties to the Agreement:

“This might be the moment we finally decide to save our planet…..single best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet…………History will judge today’s efforts as pivotal……………..

……… green mountains and clear water are as good as mountains of gold and silver. To protect the environment is to protect productivity and to improve the environment is to boost productivity.”


[1] Other estimates indicate global contributions to carbon emissions as follows: China representing just over 20 percent of global emissions while the United States accounts for 17.9 percent, Russia 7.5 percent and India 4.1 percent. Furthermore, it is highlighted that whilst 180 countries have now signed the agreement, 55 nations - covering at least 55 percent of global emissions - need to formally ratify the treaty to put it into legal effect. See Reuters, U.S, China Ratify Paris Climate Agreement

[2] See BBC, “Paris Climate Deal: US and China Announce Ratification” 



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